Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Downward Dog Ate My Homework

I went to a yoga class at Lifetime last night. *waiting for laughter to subside* I'm serious. I, the queen of clutz, was learning to stretch, balance and breathe my way into the relaxation that can only come from transforming oneself into a human pretzel! Tony has still been having back pain from his car accident and with my copious amounts of joint problems (my knees and hips tend to do random impressions of popping corn), we thought yoga might be a good habit to start. So we ventured over to the health club - side note here: What happened to the 80's when you could go "exercise" at "the gym"? Now it's all going to "work out" at the "health club"... anyways - little did we know that "Fitness Yoga" would be much more the former than the latter. Gone were my previous experiences of gentle stretching and calming breathing. This was an all out kick-your-butt stretching and straining of muscles I forgot I even had! I knew it would be rough when we started with a sequence of four moves (that we returned to several times throughout the class). The first is Downward Facing Dog - a pretty basic move with your palms and feet flat on the floor and your butt up in the air with your arms and legs straightened so that if you strung a line between your elbows and knees it would be an accurate impersonation of the letter A (no comment on the fact that people were not designed to be shaped like letters other than I). It's not too difficult but when you focus on keeping your heels flat to the ground it provides a somewhat pleasant stretching to the shoulders and quads. From Downward Dog the instructor shifts us to Plank. In Plank you are on your toes with your palms still flat and arms straight but your back straightens so that you're essentially in the up position of a push up. Then comes Chaturanga. If you've never done yoga, fear the Chaturanga. Chaturanga means "Four Limbs" and comes from the words "chatur" meaning "four", and "anga" meaning "oh wow, I found my triceps!". Your hands and feet keep the same position as Plank but you bend your elbows and bring them into your sides and balance with your nose inches from the ground for an undetermined length of time (see painful picture at right, well, maybe it's not painful if you look like THAT but for us normal humans....ow!). Yeah, it's basically like doing the first half of a push up but you're supposed to be all slow and graceful and if you're like me and haven't really done push ups regularly since high school, it starts with a slow burning in the triceps and moves into all out agony by the eighth time through the sequence. The last pose is Upward Dog and it took all my reserve not to ask the instructor or fellow pretzel people, "What's Up, Dog?". Yes, it's pretty much a reversal of Downward Facing Dog, in that your back is arched with your chest up, hips lifted and head back, but a more appropriate title would be The Little Mermaid pose. Really, no one's done it better since Ariel and you can see from her expression (at left) that she's extremely excited to have been relieved from the agony of holding Chaturanga for too long. I suppose it's also saying something that I need to take flexibility lessons from a cartoon character...

The other thing I should mention is that Lifetime Fitness does a really cool thing when the weather's nice - they have Yoga Under The Stars by the outdoor pool. It was a nice evening and I thought this feature would enhance the relaxation aspect of the class but a more accurate name for it would be Yoga Under the Stars Obscured By Light Pollution or even better Yoga With Our Friends the Mosquitoes! I was doing pretty good with some of the other crazy balance moves we tried except it's quite difficult to stand in a position like the triangle (at right) and try to focus on relaxing and breathing when a mosquito and three of it's buddies are feasting their way up your ankle and around the circumference of your elbows! And then, since the insects were out in full force their predators joined us too - and really is there anything more calming than staring at a sky filled with swarms of bats?!??? Every time we hit Upward Dog I found myself fearing a face-full of guano. *Eeeeuuughhhh* But the bats left us alone and I suppose I've done worse then sixteen mosquito bites in a night. I'll keep you all posted into my further ventures of human pretzel-hood in the future but for now all I can say is: Beware the Chaturanga!

1 comment:

Greg said...

Wow... sounds like an adventure! =)

And you've just gotta say "What up, dog?" next time and tell us how that goes over... heheh.